Linear TV lives on

New figures released by Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, suggest that despite the advent of time-shifted TV, the vast majority of TV viewing is to live TV, with the amount of time spent watching linear commercial TV channels in the UK during January to June 2011 increasing to a new record for the period.

The average TV viewer in the UK watched 18 hours, 9 minutes of commercial linear TV a week (2 hours, 35 minutes a day) during the first six months of 2011, according to new figures from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB). This is an increase of 48 minutes a week (7 minutes a day) on the same period in 2010, and an increase of 1 hour, 47 minutes a week (15 minutes a day) on the five-year average for the period.

The latest BARB figures show that commercial TV accounted for 64 per cent of viewing during the first six months of the year, up from 62 per cent in the same period last year.

Fuelled by the popularity of commercial channels, total TV viewing (including BBC channels) increased slightly during the first six months of the year. The average person watched a total of 28 hours, 21 minutes a week (4 hours, 3 minutes a day) of linear TV. This is an increase of 6 minutes a week (51 seconds a day) on the same period in 2010. This marginal increase suggests that total linear TV viewing is now stabilising after a sustained period of record growth, as predicted by Thinkbox earlier this year. Total linear TV viewing has increased by 2 hours, 43 minutes a week (24 minutes a day) in the last five years.

According to Thinkbox, the continued growth underlines the primacy of the live TV schedule, and has been fuelled by a number of factors that have created a ‘drive to live’ for TV viewing. These include:

– Social media galvanising audiences around watching and sharing TV ‘live’ via a second screen (75 per cent of those with broadband and digital TV have ‘two-screened’, according to Thinkbox/Decipher research);
– Increased risk of ‘spoilers’ via social media making live viewing imperative;
– Increased choice of TV content as digital switchover reaches 93.1 per cent of households;
– New TV technologies, such as digital recorders and HDTV, which enhance the TV experience and magnetise viewers to the TV set;
– On-demand TV encouraging more linear TV viewing (89 per cent of on-demand TV is to catch-up with linear TV, according to Thinkbox/Decipher research);
– The economic and weather climates in the UK;
– BARB’s updated TV measurement system, launched in January 2010, which more accurately captures viewing via second TV sets and ‘catch-up’ TV viewed on TV sets within seven days of broadcast.

BARB’s figures do not include TV viewed on devices other than TV sets nor time-shifted or on-demand TV viewed more than seven days after transmission. BARB does not currently measure this additional viewing as part of its normal standards, but has been separately monitoring viewing on devices other than TV sets since 2005. Its data suggests that there is an additional 1 per cent of TV viewing via other devices, two per cent for 16 to 24 year olds. BARB recently announced its intention to begin measuring TV viewing via other devices later in 2011.

According to BARB, non-live, ‘time-shifted’ viewing accounted for 9 per cent of the UK’s TV consumption during January to June 2011. This has increased from 7.1 per cent in the same period in 2010.

In households that own digital television recorders (47 per cent of households), such as Sky+ or Freeview+, average timeshifting represented 14.7 per cent of total viewing. This figure has increased from 13.7 per cent in the same period last year.

Thinkbox findings also indicate that commercial TV’s increased viewing has also led to an increase in the number of TV ads viewed. Commercial impacts (the number of ads viewed at normal speed) during January to June 2011 were up 4.7 per cent on the same period last year, and have grown by 22.1 per cent over the last five years to a new record high. The average viewer watched 47 ads a day during the first six months of 2011 compared to 45 ads during the same period last year, adding up to 2.7 billion TV ads seen at normal speed every day in the UK.

“We’ve been saying for a while that linear TV viewing couldn’t keep breaking records forever and that it had to stabilise at some point,” admitted Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox’s Managing Director. “It appears that this is now happening – although, within this, commercial TV is still growing a little, which is great news for advertisers and a testament to the choice and quality it offers. On-demand TV is expanding total TV by adding to this stable linear base. What is clear is that every new technology that joins TV – from connected TV sets to social media – is making it even more enjoyable for viewers and even more effective for advertisers,” she asserted.

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